Survival Stories Web Series Review: An impressive anthology
A sense of being trapped -- physically or emotionally -- pervades every segment in Survival Stories
It's night. A young woman (Vinitha Koshy) is alone in her apartment, sleeping. A noise wakes her up. A robber (Renjith Sekhar Nair) threatens to kill her if he is not handed any money. Her scared expression suddenly gives way to a different one. She begins narrating a story, accompanied by eerie music. Now it's the robber's turn to be scared. What secrets does her apartment hold?
This is the premise of Hook and Crook, the first of the eight segments in director Rahul Riji Nair's anthology, Survival Stories. Opening the anthology with this aptly titled segment was a smart idea because it holds promise for more interesting content in the following episodes. Just don't expect all of them to end with a twist like this one did.
Created by: Rahul Riji Nair
Cast: Vinitha Koshy, Renjith Sekhar Nair, Rahul Riji Nair, Sarin
Streaming on: YouTube
The remaining segments carry a different emotion. Including the first, all end on a seemingly positive note. The second segment is Between Revolution and Death, about two Maoist rebels fleeing from the police. Much of this plays out on a terrace, with sound effects playing a big part. Though its content may not provide the same level of stimulation as the former did, its execution recalls a time when people listened to stories on the radio.
Three of the most affecting segments in Survival Stories are Leak On the Wall, For Each Other, and Waiting for You while others like Toys from Heaven and In Love We Trust put their characters in an intense emotional state.
In Leak on the Wall, which has echoes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Mathilukal, a blind young man determined to go on living finds some unexpected comfort in the form of an unseen neighbour.
In For Each Other, a young man learns about his father's demise and is distraught at the thought of being unable to visit his home due to the lockdown. A water delivery man who has just dropped by provides some solace, and tells him a story that brings about a visible change in the other man's face.
Waiting for You should be the most emotionally charged segment of them all, especially if you own a pet. The main character is a pomeranian dog that has locked inside its owners' home, with no expectation of them returning anytime soon because of the lockdown. The pup is left to fend for itself, looking desperately for food and water in every corner of the house. A next-door neighbour, a little boy, becomes concerned upon learning about the dog's plight.
A sense of being trapped -- physically or emotionally -- pervades every segment in Survival Stories. In Uplifting, a man trapped in an elevator gets some relief from his subordinate; in Toys from Heaven, a woman with a defective leg and her baby are stuck on the terrace of their apartment; In Love We Trust has a man (played by Rahul himself) arguing with his wife over the phone while driving.
In a time when filmmakers are trying to use the lockdown-inflicted limitations to their advantage, Survival Stories manages to stand out with its inventiveness. Coming from a filmmaker who has constantly experimented with innovative ideas, beginning with his debut film Ottamuri Velicham, this is not surprising.
All the segments in Survival Stories were shot on the phone and converted to black-and-white in post-production. The whole production process was completed by Rahul and his collaborators in over two weeks. Survival Stories is currently streaming on the YouTube channel Muzik247.